Channel partner programs, Channel chiefs, Networking

SonicWall CEO, Lieutenants: Partner Program Is Top Priority

SonicWall CEO Bill Conner
Bill Conner

New SonicWall CEO Bill Conner appears to be keenly focused on channel partner success. But that's not all. The newly independent SonicWall, now owned by two private equity firms, is preparing multiple security platform, marketing and support updates, according to a ChannelE2E interview with Connor and several of his key lieutenants this morning.

First, a little background. Dell in mid-2016 sold SonicWall to Francisco Partners and Elliot Management. That deal became official today. But here's the twist. Relaunching SonicWall as an independent, channel-centric business wasn't an overnight decision. Instead, it's been an 18-month journey.

Before we look back at that journey let's look at current-day priorities. Conner's three areas of focus:

  • Relaunching the company's channel partner program and "returning to our channel roots," led by Channel Chief Steve Pataky.
  • Continually improve customers support -- including partner support.
  • Enhancing R&D to accelerate the pace of innovation -- particularly around the Capture Advance Threat Protection Service. He'll also explore mobile and IoT protection capabilities.
SonicWall’s new logo

Conner is well-known within private equity circles, and was approached about running several IT companies.He previously held CEO and/or executive-level positions Silent Circle, Entrust, Data Networks, and Enterprise Networks at Nortel Networks.

So why run SonicWall?  "It's very rare to get a chance to work with a world-class team on products that solve real-time issues for partners and SMB customers worldwide," said Conner. "It's a hot, important area."

Still, Conner and the SonicWall team know they have to polish the company brand and its products. The team conceded that SonicWall sometime moved too slowly under the IT giant's former ownership. The SonicWall brand languished a bit since Dell's corporate brand attracted most of the spotlight.

"Dell is a strong master brand but frankly SonicWall became only an ingredient in that overall Dell stack. Now, as an independent company, we'll be raising our awareness and profile."

SonicWall: Beginning the Journey to Independence

The seeds for SonicWall's sale were actually planted around April or May 2015. At the time Michael Dell and SonicWall VP of Marketing and Product Management Patrick Sweeney discussed what it would take for SonicWall to stand itself up as an independent company again.

Patrick Sweeney
Bill Odell
Steve Pataky

Part of the discussion involved "getting the band back together," said Sweeney. But there was also a commitment to bring in additional talent. "It was a matter of blending the best of the new and the best of the new," he said. The result is a new SonicWall that "has the ability to be nimble. When we want the roadmap changed we do it. There's no bureaucracy," he added.

In terms of R&D, SonicWall is feeling good about the "muscle memory" -- basically, the company has returned to the gym to whip its R&D back into shape. Under Dell's previous ownership "we had to align with a $60 billion company. Today, we're aligned with the industry. We have nobody to blame but ourselves if we don't execute."

SonicWall: Marketing Messages

As part of today's company relaunch, SonicWall launched a new website, logo, messaging and branding that celebrates the company's security and channel heritage. The effort involved a healthy dose of focus groups along with meetings with partners and customers, according to Bill Odell, VP of corporate marketing at SonicWall.

"We're thrilled to be free to tell that story in a more partner-centric way," said Odell.

The overall effort is a continuation of what SonicWall discussed during a partner conference in August, Pataky said. "You know what it takes to stand up a new partner program,"  he added. "So this has been in motion for quite some time. It's a rate opportunity. We're respecting our past but we're not burdened by it. Finally we have sometime that's 100 percent security, 100 percent SonicWall and 100 percent channel."

SonicWall Channel Partner Program

SonicWall's new partner program officially launches today with three program levels. Existing partners are grandfathered into the new program and have until the end of 2017 (i.e., more than a year) to meet/achieve the current program requirements.

In addition to supporting resellers and integrators, SonicWall is preparing to more formally support MSPs and recurring revenue motions. As more SonicWall technologies potentially move to the cloud and recurring revenue subscriptions, watch for the overall partner program to include a dedicated MSP track, according to Pataky.

No doubt, SonicWall will face intense competition in the MSP channel -- especially from security companies that integrate tightly with PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) platforms. But a pure channel sales model at SonicWall sounds promising...

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.